Red Bull boss Chris Horner has welcomed the FIA’s recent ruling that any system which adjusts a car’s ride height after qualifying, while cars are in parc ferme conditions, will be regarded as a form of active suspension, and thus, in contravention of FIA regulations. Active suspension was outlawed in the mid 1990’s.
The Red Bulls have been so quick in qualifying (a Red Bull has been on pole in the first three events this season), that rival teams have begun to surmise that they must have a trick suspension system in place that helps the cars recoup some of the aerodynamic efficiency lost under low fuel loads.
Horner has been quick to deny that they have such a system in place. As he recently told Autosport, “Fundamentally, we’ve got a fast car. The guys have done a good job and it’s inevitably one of those things that people perhaps make accusations when you are running competitively. But I take [the other teams’ suspicions] as a compliment. I’m sure if we were running 14th, similar accusations wouldn’t be made.”
Horner also welcomes the clarification that the FIA has issued, which eliminates any gray area that might allow rival teams to deploy any number of systems which might be variations on the same theme. The FIA ruling says, in part, “Any system device or procedure, the purpose and/or effect of which is to change the set-up of the suspension, while the car is under parc ferme conditions will be deemed to contravene art 34.5 of the sporting regulations.”
“I think they’ve done exactly the right and the responsible thing,” Horner said, “as it avoids a development rush in this area that inevitably wouldn’t be cheap. It’s a sensible ruling…We’re more than happy with the FIA’s verdict, which we fully support.”
Clearly, if the Red Bull squad are achieving such impressive qualifying results without the use of an active suspension system, they would certainly have little interest in being drawn into an expensive gadget race with rival teams. We have only to look at the results of the KERS and double-diffuser wars of 2009 to see the futility of this. Huge amounts of R&D money were spent, with little benefit to the final show. And already this year we’ve seen the beginning of an F-duct war, as rival teams being racing to catch up to McLaren’s latest black-art innovation.
Innovation is a good thing – it’s a large part of Formula 1’s essence – but the flip-side of that coin is that innovation spawns immitation, which helps F1 budgets spiral out of control. There are two measures the FIA can take to help prevent this: (a) they should write regulations which leave little room for creative interpretation, and (b) when the need for clarification arises, they should respond quickly with a ruling that leaves no room for speculation.
In this instance, the initial regulation had a gray area, and the FIA has managed to managed to turn it to black and white. For this, they deserve full points.
Meanwhile, in conformation of his earlier statement that Red Bull wasn’t using any sort of active suspension system, Horner said, “The car that we will take to China will be exactly the same mechanically as it was in the first three races. [The FIA ruling] has absolutely no impact on the specification of our car.”
Let’s face it, the Red Bull is just plain quick.